Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke retired 18 of the first 19 Pirates… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
It cost them $147 million, but the Dodgers might have a right-handed complement to staff ace Clayton Kershaw.
Zack Greinke pitched his firstgame for the Dodgers on Friday night and delivered the kind of shut-down performance in a 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that made their postseason dreams feel attainable.
Greinke was nearly flawless over 61/3 innings at Dodger Stadium, retiring 19 of the first 20 batters he faced. He allowed only two baserunners, both on singles. The first, a sharply hit ball that bounced off second baseman Mark Ellis at the edge of the outfield grass, could have been ruled an error. The second was to the last batter he faced, Andrew McCutchen.
BOX SCORE: Dodgers 3, Pirates 0
Greinke departed to a standing ovation, some fans possibly imagining a seven-game October series in which either Greinke or Kershaw would pitch in four of the games.
Greinke downplayed the results.
"It's one game," Greinke said. "I was just trying to do normal stuff and it ended up working."
The victory was promising for other reasons too. Matt Kemp got his first hit of the season, snapping a 0-for-12 skid with a run-scoring double in the sixth inning. Andre Ethier hit a home run off Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez and is now three for seven against left-handed pitchers. And Justin Sellers returned to the lineup from a disastrous defensive performance three days earlier to play nine errorless innings at shortstop.
A former American League Cy Young Award winner, Greinke signed a six-year contract in December, which, at the time, was the most lucrative ever for a right-handed pitcher. But he bruised his elbow in spring training, interrupting his throwing program and raising questions about his availability at the start of the regular season.
Friday night, there were no problems.
He threw only nine pitches in the first inning. He struck out four consecutive batters in one stretch. McCutchen's single in the seventh inning ended a run of 14 consecutive outs.
"He can pitch a little, huh?" Manager Don Mattingly said. "It was kind of what we expected. He can change speeds. He locates and kind of throws the ball where he wants."
The Dodgers' stagnant offense didn't provide much backing, but the little it provided was enough.
Ethier put the Dodgers up, 1-0, in the second inning by depositing a fastball by Sanchez into the right-field pavilion.
Ethier batted .222 against left-handers last season. Improving that was the focus of his work with hitting coach Mark McGwire this spring.
Greinke made that one-run lead hold up until the sixth inning, when the Dodgers gave him a little more breathing room. Ellis drew a leadoff walk and scored when Kemp doubled into the gap in right-center.
"It's been a while since I got a hit," Kemp said. "There's more to come, though."
Kemp scored when Adrian Gonzalez doubled to right to drive in his first run of the season and increase the Dodgers' advantage to 3-0.
A night that offered breakthroughs for Kemp and Gonzalez provided a platform for redemption for Sellers.
Three days earlier, Sellers made two throwing errors in a 3-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. He was out of the lineup Wednesday.
"It felt good to be back in the lineup and make a couple of plays," Sellers said.
The most memorable came in the fifth inning, when he robbed Garrett Jones of a hit by making a diving stop to his right and throwing him out.